Look what I have. Three captive (and captivating) chickens.
As you probably know, Hannah Hen lives across the road all on her own in a farm paddock. Up until a few weeks ago she was spending all day at my place and then tottering off across the road to sleep somewhere in her paddock. A few weeks ago she stopped coming over and has been turning up for a few minutes for food every now and again, making strange clucky noises and then running (yes running with her little short legs) back to her paddock, probably back to her broody nest.
The aim has been ever since I got my coop, to catch this little bantam and lock her up with my two Barnevelders so that she considers this her home and I can then keep her safe, warm and well fed. This has proven to be quite difficult as although she is quite friendly, she is also elusive and very smart.
I hadn’t seen Hannah Hen for about ten days but a few days ago, I saw something out of the corner of my eye. I looked up expecting to see a bird hopping along but it wasn’t a bird. It was Hannah Hen running as fast as she could around to the side of the house where she knows the chicken coop (and the food) is.
Aha, maybe this is my opportunity to capture her. I grabbed the treat tin and ran outside. There she was, standing in the coop pecking furiously at the scraps left by the other two (who were free ranging just outside the coop). I thought that she would run out of the coop as I came near (as she has done in the past when I have tried to shut her in) but no, she kept pecking ravenously, even as I reached inside the coop to place the treat tin in front of her.
There was nothing on her mind except eating.
Even when Hilda Hen ran into the coop and started pecking from the treat tin alongside her, she didn’t stop eating.
Even as I shut the door of the coop and locked them both in, she didn’t stop eating.
Even when Helen Hen was running around and around, squawking outside the coop she didn’t stop eating.
Even when I opened the coop door to let Helen Hen in, she didn’t stop eating.
Even when Helen Hen caused a huge commotion, wanting the treats but not wanting to go right into the coop because Hannah Hen was in there, she didn’t stop eating.
After a few panicky minutes of this, I finally got Helen Hen far enough into the coop for me to put my hand behind her bottom and push her in and slam, the three of them were captives!
Then I started to feel unsure.
Am I doing the right thing?
Hannah Hen has been a free spirit for so long, who am I to capture her?
We think she has been sitting on eggs somewhere in her paddock. What if they are fertilised?
Maybe there is a rooster somewhere around that I haven’t seen or heard?
What if there is a brood of baby chickens sitting waiting for their mum to come back?
What if I traumatise Hannah Hen by locking her in and not letting her back to her eggs?
I rang my husband Haitch. He said that I should let her out as she is a free spirit.
I rang my daughter Aitch. She was undecided but thought Hannah Hen may become traumatised.
I desperately looked up the number of the breeder I got my Barenvelders from. Thank goodness she answered the phone.
Thank goodness for her understanding and her knowledgable advice.
I was doing the right thing as some chickens sit on unfertilised eggs for such a long time, only eating when they have to (as she obviously is) and ending up losing condition and possibly getting sick.
The best thing for Hannah Hen was to keep her locked in the coop for “a good week” and leave the two Barnies in with her.
The breeder suggested I put two boiled eggs in one of the nests as she may continue to be broody. If she does continue to sit on the eggs, the breeder has some black Orpington fertilised eggs that I could have. Fingers were crossed hoping she would remain broody.
So three days on from this dramatic and emotionally exhausting day, where are we at? Well, the photo above is the three girls today in their extended run that joins to the coop (and the coop’s minuscule run). They all seem happy and Hannah Hen does not seem traumatised.
Hannah Hen’s broodiness got broken by locking her in and so no chickens for me this time. I guess that is understandable. I’ll have to wait for her to go broody again.
I do still feel a bit mean locking the girls in for ten days but they will be free ranging once more throughout the day before they know it.